Descriptive terms are like the markers on a knowledge map. Maps are so important that Apple recently cashiered the executive who launched its somewhat inaccurate quilt of outsourced online maps (arguably the most-ridiculed Apple blunder since the skateboard-sized Newton).
So we need terms to be accurate and granular enough that we can use them successfully to navigate our study of digital user behavior. We don't like getting lost - not in Kansas, not in our analytics tools.
Some of the changes in the market have rendered some terms almost meaningless for the purposes of measurement, and are in need of redefinition. Just like what happens when the old road dead-ends at the new overpass, we need the latest information in order to keep from crashing into a wall.
Here are my top three suggestions for terms in need of redefinition:
Web. Yes, it means too many things now. Simply agreeing it's dub-dub-dub-and-done doesn't do it anymore. What are you using it for, and which version draws your audience? Even a foundational industry organization such as the Web Analytics Association is now the Digital Analytics Association.
Consider this: the same "web" content may come in several flavors for different audiences. With HTML5, you can create highly interactive experiences. But users with even relatively new browsers and OS versions may need you to create a four-door sedan version with fewer knobs and smaller woofers. And there may even be a static page version for the later adopters. Then consider the browsing experience and commensurate behavior on an iPad. Or the microscopic (OK, zoomable) text on a smartphone. That's web-based. But not like the PC version. And what about shared or syndicated media? We could cite more examples. But the term "web" can mean at least these things right now that are especially important to marketers:
Web in a browser on a PC with page-to-page navigation
Web in a browser on a PC with interactive navigation
Web on a large-screen mobile device
Web on a tiny-screen mobile device
Web coming from somewhere you may not control (syndicated, campaign-related, or from social media like Facebook or LinkedIn)
We have room here only to scratch the surface. Clearly, the browser itself is no longer enough to define what we call "the web." The town has matured into a city and has quite a number of clearly defined districts. Get to know the neighborhood!
Mobile. Measuring "mobile" as a category has become something like saying "New York" without specifying whether you mean the city or the state. I know a guy who grew up in the Catskills and moved to Florida as a teenager. They wanted to know what gang he'd belonged to in New York, as if he'd been haunting the streets of Bushwick.
Recently, Black Friday e-commerce data told us that iOS users converted at drastically higher levels than Android users. Lumping mobile together without specifying platform-type would have left you misinformed. Like Bogie in Casablanca, you'd have come to the desert "for the waters." Worldwide, many mobile users are "text only," and sometimes they buy things that way. Many are not even using web protocols. And of course nearly every app is for a mobile audience. Apps behave very differently than websites and require special tools to measure them. Finally, it seems laptops should be considered part of "mobile," since they are mobile and get used in many environments where other mobile devices also get used. So new definitions of mobile might include:
Mobile web iOS
Mobile web Android
Mobile PC (laptop)
Analytics. For the marketer, analytics has come to mean web, or more recently, digital analytics. But each of these terms has become emblematic of "siloed" information. And many organizations are calling ardently for more correlated data. They want to know about their sites, their campaigns, their social, their call center, and every touch point in between. Plus, many are hoping for a predictive capability too. They want to send the right message to the right audience at the right time. Where does the magic happen?
The magic can happen when all the data shows up in one place. Some teams are doing this by hand with spreadsheets and custom algorithms; and now the number of vendors claiming to automate this for the marketer is myriad. It really is a rapidly evolving sector, and the new requirements are obsoleting even the term "digital analytics." Because when you put everything into one interface, you are converging data.
Therefore, analytics becomes (for the marketer):
Single silo analytics
Manually correlated analytics
Of the three definitions, the last is likely to become the de facto appellation for most analytics going forward, as it most accurately defines both the supply and the demand.
If this column prompts a discussion about granularity and correlation, it will have made an impact. By drawing up a more detailed terminology map, you'll find yourself taking a much more direct route to Insight Boulevard.
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Andrew is a digital marketing executive with 20 years' experience servicing the enterprise customer. Currently he is Managing Partner at Efectyv Digital, a digital marketing consulting company, and Managing Partner at Technology Leaders, a web analytics consulting firm he founded in 2002. He combines extensive technical knowledge with a broad strategic understanding of digital marketing and especially digital measurement, plus hands-on creative in the form of the written word, user-experience and traditional design.
His practice is dedicated to building customers' digital marketing success and helping them save money during the process.
He is a writer, a public speaker and a visual artist as well.
His book "Digital is Destroying Everything—and What Comes Next" will be published by Pearson in the Spring of 2014. He writes a regular column about Analytics for ClickZ, the 2013 Online Publisher of the Year. He wrote the groundbreaking "Dawn of Convergence Analytics" report which was featured at the SES show in New York, and the second report in the series will be featured at the same show in San Francisco.
In addition to speaking at SES, he has presented at eMetrics; and his session was voted one of the top ten presentations at the DMA show in Las Vegas. He is speaking again at the DMA in Chicago in the fall of 2013.
In 2004 Andrew co-founded the Digital Analytics Association and is currently a Director Emeritus. He has designed analytics training curricula for business teams and has led seminars on digital marketing subjects.
He was also an Adjunct Professor at The Pratt Institute where he taught Advanced Computer Graphics for 3 years. Andrew is also an award-winning, nationally exhibited painter.